Burned Out on Work and Life? Use This 3-Step Plan to Hit the Reset Button

By Lucy Zielinski

Are you trying to juggle a full-time job while raising children or taking care of an elderly parent? Are you contending with challenges at work and the demands of being connected 24/7? On top of that, are you facing a personal health issue while trying to care for those around you?

In short, do you ever wake up dreading the day ahead?

As women, we juggle many important roles: employee (or employer), wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, volunteer, mentor, etc. These roles require energy and time—and some heavy lifting. So, it’s no surprise that many women feel burned out. Along with burnout comes sadness, lack of motivation, bitterness, anger, and the list goes on. 

What should you do if you are experiencing burnout or near-burnout? Begin by reframing your thinking. Regardless of your circumstances, there are three things that all of us can say:

  • First, I am responsible for myself.
  • Second, I am in control of my actions, reactions, and emotions.
  • Third, I have choices. 

It has taken me many years to learn these principles. But, like others, I have discovered that they provide a sense of personal power to help you take control of your particular situation. 

Once you feel empowered, the next step is to figure out what changes you need to make to get back in balance. If you are feeling the need to hit the reset button on your life, try this three-step plan. 

1. Fill Up Your Tank

Too often, women are so busy taking care of others that they forget about taking care of themselves. But if you are drained, you cannot take care of anyone, especially yourself. The solution: Learn to practice self-care. Take time to “fill your tank” on all levels: emotionally, spiritually, and physically. When you have a full tank, you can give more because you’ll have more energy. 

Ask yourself: What do I really need? What do I really want? One exercise I often recommend is to create a list of the “top 100 things that bring you joy.” This list could include activities such as sitting down with a good cup of coffee, hiking through the woods, hanging out with some old friends, or just taking a nap.  

Once you have your list, turn to it regularly, if not daily. It is important to fill your life with things that give you the energy to keep going. As the adage goes, “I need to take care of myself for you.”

2. Decide About Your Priorities 

Another exercise I recommend is to list your priorities and values in rank order. If you don’t establish your own priorities, you are likely fulfilling someone else’s priorities. Who is important to you? What do you value? If you say yes to something, what are you saying no to? 

For example, say your boss asks you to work late on a Friday night, but you have plans for dinner with your family. If you stay at the office, you are saying yes to your boss and no to your family. Can you offer your boss an alternative solution, like coming in early on Monday? Once you are clear about your priorities, decision-making in situations like this one will be easier.  

3. Create a Life Plan

In most organizations, managers and workers alike take time out on an annual basis, away from the office, to strategize and plan for the year ahead. Why don’t we do the same for ourselves?

I recently read Living Forward by Daniel Harkavy and Michael Hyatt. The authors believe everyone should take just one day to create a life plan. Your life plan should include designing your legacy and charting your path. 

Just like your company’s strategic plan, your life plan does not have to be perfect. It will be iterative and evolve over time. The important thing is to implement it and keep it alive. Once you identify the changes you want to make, tell a friend or hire a coach and ask him or her to hold you accountable. 

Get Started

Many life coaches use a tool called the “Wheel of Life” to help people assess their level of satisfaction in key areas of their life. The purpose of the tool is to help you identify the areas you want to focus on improving. Determining your areas of focus will help you with all three steps outlined above: finding joy by filling up your tank, setting priorities, and, ultimately, creating your life plan. 

As a professional, you know that nothing gets done when you ignore it. If you are edging toward burnout—or you're already there—focus on what you need to do to reset your life. What gets your focus, gets your attention. And what gets attention gets done.

Lucy Zielinski
 is vice president for GE Healthcare Camden Group in Chicago and is a life coach.



Publication Date: Friday, January 29, 2016